Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Street Name Hints at Long-Awaited Restaurant

A new road name may provide a clue to a new development rumored for Marion's west side.

The Marion City Council voted 4-0 last night to adopt Resolution 2013-36 naming the new Route 13 frontage road between Walton Way and Skyline Drive that's on the south side of the highway. The resolution names the road Garden Avenue. The resolution also renamed the existing Bradford St. behind Absher Motors to Garden Avenue as well.

Currently there are no garden establishments on that stretch of road, most of which remains closed to public until work progresses enough on the Route 13 railroad overpass to close the existing at-grade highway crossing. When that happens the railroad will allow the new railroad crossing on Garden to open.

City officials had been mixed on the new name as late as a month ago. Although logically they could have simply kept the Walton Way name for the new stretch, engineers wanted to keep the Bradford name and add it to the new stretch.

As the city has a history of naming roads on the west side after businesses or developers, this name may be an important clue. Walton Way is named for the late Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam's Club fame who actually visited Marion when his club opened a couple of decades ago. 17th Street is named for 17th Street Bar & Grill, and there are many more examples as well.

While there's no official hint as to what Garden Avenue means, and absolutely no discussion of the name given at the council meeting, it would probably be safe to assume if another street goes in and needs a name, the city could consider name it Olive Alley.

If you haven't figured it out by now, think about one of the country's top Italian restaurant franchises. It's a chain that's been looking at Marion off and on since its sister franchise Red Lobster opened back in the earliest days of the Illinois Centre mall.

A few years ago Marion Mayor Bob Butler mentioned that a long-rumored restaurant had settled on a site in Marion. It was believed to be a reference to this chain. Around that time another source hinted at the restaurant in question and a site along the south side of the highway.

I could be wrong and we could get nothing, or a Garden Inn by Hilton, but there hasn't been anything on a new hotel, other than the upcoming expansion of Country Inn & Suites. All the talk has focused on restaurants.

This new stretch of property opening up is all due to the Route 13 six-lane expansion project. With the new lanes and the new railroad overpass knocking out direct access to the mall there at Toys 'R Us, the state agreed to develop the access road on the south side. With the railroad not agreeing to another at-grade crossing, and IDOT refusing to allow commercial development on the south property unless an access road was built, the landowners on the south side were caught in a Catch-22 situation.

Chain restaurants that specialize in dinner regularly want to be on the side of the road with the heaviest evening traffic flow. For the west side of Marion that means the side closest to the east-bound lanes of Route 13 as they approach the interstate.

The new road should create at least four or five good-size outlots on the Reinbold and Campbell properties with high visibility. When the road opens highway access will initially be from Skyline Drive on the west and Williamson County Parkway on the east by Sam's Club. Mall traffic will also be able to use Marathon Drive by Toys 'R Us and drive under the highway over to Garden Avenue.

The city has proposed a new TIF district to cover the two aforementioned properties. A hearing on the proposal will take place prior to the next council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 5 p.m. with the regular council meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. A previous TIF covers the property between it and Skyline Drive where the 1960s-era furniture store is slated for demolition.

Part of the new TIF proceeds will be used to extend the mall entrance road at Red Lobster and O'Charley's (Sinclair Dr.) south to the new Garden Avenue. That will make the existing three-way intersection a four-way intersection.

A public hearing concerning an amendment to TIF 1 will take place the same night at 6 p.m.